Q&A with Herman Mashaba – Chairman of the Free Market Foundation


BRLP: In short, what is your crusade about?

Mashaba: I joined the Free Market Foundation because I admire what they tried to achieve over the last forty years. I realised they were doing a great job, but they were not reaching out to the broader South African public. We are on a crusade to let the broader population know about our solution to South Africa’s social and economic challenges; to understand that the socialistic proposals by some will not give them economic freedom but will in fact disempower them because they will forever be dependent on someone else for their own livelihood.”

BRLP: How far are you willing to go?

Mashaba: We really want to challenge the current labour legislation. We firstly want to engage our law makers. But if they don’t hear us we have already taken a decision to go to the courts, even the Constitutional Court, to decide who is right. For me, as a business man using common sense, with millions of people unemployed, I cannot see how people can be prohibited from working, by some law, and how this can be constitutional. When someone is prepared to give me R3000 per month but the law says he must pay me R3500, why am I not allowed to transact? Such a legislative framework cannot be constitutional. 

BRLP: Every system has its weaknesses. So let me put you on the other side of the fence for a moment. What are the weaknesses of a strong capitalist, free market system?

Mashaba: I think it needs to have checks and balances. As much as we mean well, at the end of the day we also need checks and balances. Labour Unions are very important and overall government policies have to be really strong to ensure people are kept on track. I think the rule of law is quite important. I believe strongly that for a capitalist system to operate in today’s times we need to respect corporate governance and take responsibility beyond making money. At the same time, let us not stop people from making money. We have to train South Africans from the time they are young to understand the value of having a social conscience, without being dictated to by government. But, let’s not stop them from being allowed to dream and be the best that they can be. Short term interventions for social problems are needed, but we must not create a situation where people are dependent on others, because when you do this it becomes a real problem. Absolutely when someone loses a job today, as a society we must find a way to help, but it must be a short term measure. The solution can’t be a way where people feel they are entitled.

BRLP: So the entitlement culture is what you are warning against?

Mashaba: Absolutely. An entitlement culture is very dangerous for any society to adopt. It is not going to succeed

BRLP: There are all these different systems and philosophies. In our society however, with all its needs, surely a purely capitalist, free market model alone is not the answer?

Mashaba: There is no system that is going to be hundred percent correct. It is just not possible. We are human beings and there are lots of dynamics at play. I believe as a society and a people, let’s keep on adapting. Coming up with legislative framework is work in progress. What might work today might not be relevant in eighteen months or two years time. At the same time let us allow people to be natural, to learn that they have to wake up every morning and go to work for their families, because this is where they will get their dignity; their kids will see their parent waking up and going to work. The kids must know that for them to make it they must go to school and do their best. And they need to feel that they are not dependent on a politician or some beaurocrat; that their survival is dependent on themselves. Yes, we need government to create a conducive environment for all fifty million people to play in.


I think government is trying not to implement a ‘one system fits all’ model, but to find something that works for us. But you are obviously saying they are failing, that they may be allowing COSATU, for example, to dominate?

Mashaba: Look at what is happening with the labour legislation now – total domination by labour debates, and forgetting about the other forty eight million South African’s. This is where I say we are failing, because we are sitting with seven and a half million unemployed South Africans, with the numbers increasing. We are failing to recognize that for employment to really happen in any country or society a government must create an enabling environment, incentives for business people to employ. Business people cannot be forced by legislation to employ people. It can’t work. Just look at it logically. If it was that simple then governments across the world would be doing it. Governments must create enabling environments and not punishment. Right now we are coming out with legislation to punish employers. We are creating an environment where employers in SA are regarded as an enemy of the people, whereas the employers are the ones that play such a critical role in sustaining the government, through taxes. It is very strange. As a Free Market Foundation we are saying this is totally wrong; this is criminal; this is unconstitutional.

 BRLP: Your message to President Zuma?

Mashaba: Mr President, please remove these obstacles that are actually destroying jobs in this country. Please convince your colleagues in government to begin the process of reviewing this legislative framework. Please Mr President, be aware that South Africa and its fifty million people are all your stakeholders. So when you come out with legislation, ensure it is equitable to all fifty million South African’s and not just two million labour members.

BRLP: Your message to Zwelinzima Vavi and labour?

Mashaba: Please help us to repeal this legislative framework, because you are going to be the biggest beneficiary. We want to create high employment in this country. If we can employ sixty percent of the seven and a half million South Africans, then you can grow your membership base. So I believe Mr Vavi and Cosatu in particular, we really need you as partners to change the legislation and you will be the biggest beneficiaries. We encourage labour representation in the future of this country. They have a very important role to play. We want you as partners. Surely you are not happy to see unemployment numbers rise year after year? Like all South Africans you are also affected by this.

BRLP: Your message to the business community?

Mashaba: Please help the Free Market Foundation to promote this ideological imperative. South Africa over the last few years, especially the unemployed and destitute, they only know one version. Their own interpretation of economic empowerment is to take from the rich, and that type of system is not going to work. Please help us to go and take this message to the majority of South Africans to understand an economic system that can liberate them, offer them the economic freedom they are looking for. This is only possible if they are given opportunities.

This article appeared in the:





Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

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